Friday, November 19, 2010

The Anti-Anti-Terrorist Left

Former federal prosecutor Andrew McCarthy refers in National Review Online to some liberals as the “Anti-Anti-Terrorist Left.” His phrase is reminiscent of the description for liberals during the Cold War as the “Anti-Anti-Communists.”

It is not that liberals are pro-Communist or pro-terrorist. They simply have been opposed to many of the most significant measures to oppose Communism and terrorism. It is not that they are necessarily anti-American, but that they are so reflexively anti-nationalistic that they are necessarily sympathetic to the perceived grievances of those who are anti-Americans, and understanding and tolerant of even some of their methods of expression. Foreign opposition to the indefinite detention of terrorists at Guantanamo Bay without charge and military trials for those terrorists who are charged are examples of anti-American grievances with which the Anti-Anti-Terrorist Left sympathizes.

McCarthy is famous for his successful prosecution of Islamist terrorists in New York before the September 11, 2001 Terrorist Attacks. He was commenting in his National Review Online column on how justice was not rendered by the verdict in this first civilian terrorist trial for the Guantanamo detainees since September 11. The terrorist defendant was acquitted of 284 counts and convicted of only one count of conspiracy to blow up the two American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998, in which 224 people, including 12 Americans were killed. The terrorist was charged with 224 counts of murder, among other charges.

McCarthy noted the irrationality of a conviction for conspiracy, but acquittal of the crimes committed that arose out of the conspiracy, despite the legal principle that a conspirator is culpable for all of the crimes committed that arose from the conspiracy. The former prosecutor theorized that the verdict must have been the result of a compromise by the jury because of as few as one juror holding out for acquittal, which he declared would have been less likely in a military tribunal in which the jury is comprised of military officers. The civilian trials, of which I had warned in a post last November, The Risks and Dangers of Civilian Trials for the September 11 Terrorists, are examples of the pre-September 11 mindset typical during the Clinton Administration, under which McCarthy served, of seeing terrorism a matter to be resolved by criminal prosecution instead of as a holy war waged by militant Muslims.

Because liberals consider military tribunals to be less fair than civilian trials, they are concerned about negative foreign perception. Even though the embassy bombing case validates the view that the risks of the civilian trials outweigh any concern about foreign perception, the Anti-Anti-Terrorist Left continues to insist that they are right to oppose the more effective practice of conducting military trials.

American weakness only serves to embolden the Islamists who regard strength as a sign of the favor of Allah, and are contemptuous toward the weak, whom they regard as disfavored by Allah. Conservatives should continue to insist on legally and morally doing what best protects security and liberty, regardless of foreign perception.

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